Barcelona has been given a boost ahead of the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli with UEFA confirming the game will take place at the Camp Nou as originally scheduled.
“In accordance with the principle of sporting equity, and taking into account the current conditions (all clubs that have to play the return match of the round of 16 at home are currently playing the remaining matches of their national leagues in their own stadiums and it is possible to travel without restrictions for visiting teams), the UEFA Executive Committee has decided that the remaining return matches of the round of 16 of the Champions League and UEFA Europa League will be played in the stadiums of the designated home teams.”
There had been some doubt as to where the game would take place when the competition resumed. The Champions League was suspended in March before the second leg due to the coronavirus pandemic.
UEFA announced in June the game would take place on August 7 or 8 but were unable to confirm if it would go ahead at the Camp Nou or at a neutral venue.
Europe’s governing body has now given the go-ahead for the match to take place at the Camp Nou with the winners progressing to a ‘final eight’ tournament in Portugal. The draw for the latter stages of the Champions League will take place on Friday.
Advantage Barcelona at the Camp Nou
Barcelona and Napoli will take to the pitch at the Camp Nou for the second leg with the hosts having the slight edge. Quique Setien’s side drew the first leg 1-1 at Napoli’s San Paolo Stadium and will feel confident of progressing due to their away goal.
The Catalan giants also possess a formidable home record. They are unbeaten at home this season in La Liga and have only dropped points twice in 18 matches at the Camp Nou in 2019-20.
Their home record in Europen competition is even stronger. Barcelona have not tasted defeat on their own turf in the Champions League since losing to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in 2013.
Manager Setien will welcome the news as he has spoken openly about wanting to play the fixture in Barcelona. He told a press conference in June: “What I hope is that we play Napoli here. It would be different to playing at a neutral venue and behind closed doors.”
Napoli in Good Form in Serie A
Yet Napoli will not lack for confidence for the tie as they have been in good form since returning to action following the long lay-off due to Covid-19. Gennaro Gattuso’s side beat Juventus to lift the Coppa Italia, picking up their first major trophy in six seasons.
They have only been beaten once since the restart, although Gattuso told Radio Kiss Kiss he is aware his side will be underdogs for the match:
“As for Barcelona, there’s the acceptance that we’ll be facing a better team, but we’ll get there in the best possible way, in the right physical and mental condition. It won’t be a holiday, we’ll go there to play for progression. Instead, we want to go on holiday as late as possible.”
Barcelona have suffered some heartbreaking defeats in the Champions League in recent seasons, throwing away big leads at Roma and Liverpool. However, history does favor Setien’s side. According to UEFA, they have never lost a last-16 tie when playing the second leg at home.